Ted Leitner’s voice had plenty of enthusiasm and good for him. After slogging through another losing Padres summer, “Uncle Teddy” deserves a break.
So when San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny provided a recent dose of excitement, Leitner’s pipes couldn’t contain his appreciation.
“He breaks into the clear. It’s a foot race for Rashaad Penny. You cannot catch him … 40, 30, 20 … Rasheed Penny. Touchdown Aztecs!”
Will Penny have currency again against visiting Stanford on Saturday? The smart money says yes, although battling a Pac-12 opponent in consecutive weeks is a tall task for SDSU (2-0).
Leitner, the longtime SDSU radio voice, painted the picture of Penny well in SDSU’s 30-20 win over Arizona State last week. Penny was sensational by scoring on the ground, through the air and with a kickoff return. He racked up 353 total yards and that surprised those that know him not one inch.
“I think everybody that got to see Rashaad nationally is what we get to see, the type of ability that he has,” coach Rocky Long said. “Last year he was a backup so nobody got to see that much of him. Now they are seeing how good he is.”
Penny’s path to marquee’s top billing was clogged by D.J. Pumphrey last year. Pumphrey deserved running with the first string as he sprinted through the NCAA record book.
He finished as college’s all-time leading rusher, but he left behind one dandy replacement: Penny.
“You wait and are patient and you finally get that chance,” Penny said.
More chances for exposure for Penny, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, comes against No. 19-ranked Stanford (1-1). It’s the biggest non-conference game on the Aztecs schedule and another win over a Pac-12 bunch could set up a magical season.
But the real hocus-pocus comes when Penny, a senior, has the ball and starts to wiggle his hips. Presto, he’s gone and there’s usually a would-be tackler or two in his wake.
“I’m eager to prove I can do some of the same things that D.J. did,” Penny said.
The numbers could be similar but the not running style. Pumphrey was elusive where the 5-11, 220-pound Penny is more physical. Penny, as does Pumphrey, also has the speed to scoot around a defender.
“We think he is one of the best running backs in the country,” Long said. “He had a great year last year, but didn’t carry it as much because the guy in front of him set the all-time NCAA record for rushing.”
Penny’s muscle, he said, comes from all his carrying-on in the weight room. That’s where his colleagues pushed him this summer, knowing he was poised to be more than a sufficient replacement for Pumphrey. Those long afternoons slamming iron are paying dividends.
“I’ve got to thank my teammates and I think they are more excited about the recognition I am getting,” he said. “I am just taking it slowly. I’ve never been in this situation before so I don’t know what to do.”
Don’t worry, Rashaad, Long will take care of that. A penny for Long’s thoughts would reveal an old-school coach eager to lean on a running back.
Now here comes Stanford and soon after it arrives, its defense will be chasing Penny.
“I know this week is going to be a bigger stage,” he said. “I know (my teammates) are exited and once they are excited I know we are going to get it rolling again.”
Leitner, among others, can’t wait.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly.